Wednesday, April 27, 2011

some things look better in the rear view mirror

Over three years ago I lost a job that I'd had for 13ish years.  Initially I loved it, and eventually I loathed it.  I was lucky enough to be taught the business by my father and I worked very hard to get to the position I held when it ended.  It was financially rewarding but as I look back I know that it simply wasn't worth it.  I don't regret it.  I learned a lot about marketing, management and customer service and I met a lot of great people.  I simply wouldn't do it again.  No way.

I think I can say now that you're doomed if you don't have any passion for what you do.  I should clarify that a bit.  If you throw your whole self into your work, you had better love it.  It will suck the soul right out of you if you don't, and that is what happened to me.  In the end I was a shadow of the hard working and enthusiastic person I used to be, and it's because the job wasn't rewarding and didn't give me any joy.  Some of my coworkers made it tolerable, but that can only sustain a person for so long.

If you are one of those people who can go to a job and see it as simply a job and punch out at the end of the day and live a very rewarding life, then I applaud you.  But since heredity seems to be a sprouting theme in this blog, I will say that I also inherited the tendency to define myself by my career.  It's a horrible thing to do, really.  We aren't what we do.  If you are lucky enough to make a full time living as an artist or a teacher then maybe you can say you're happy defining yourself with your job title.  But if you are a plumber, or an executive assistant or a pilot or any other number of very very necessary things, I doubt that your job gives you total fulfillment in your life.

The first day I woke up without my job I felt like an empty shell and I had no idea who I was.  It was all I had ever known and I didn't think I had anything at all without it.  There was this spark inside of me somewhere that knew it was a good thing to be rid of it, but I couldn't crawl out of from behind that image I had created for myself.  And if I'm totally honest I didn't crawl out of it for a very long time.  I'm just now emerging from it completely.

As I've mentioned, I'm working on decluttering my life and my home.  Today I ventured into our spare bedroom that has become a junk dumping ground and found all of the boxes that came from my old office.  They have been exactly in that spot since the day I lost my job.  I couldn't face them.  It was too painful.  Hell I've only recently been able to drive by my old place of employment without it bothering me, and they've been out of business for quite some time now.  (Does it give me some small amount of glee that they went under after I left?  Yes, yes it does.  I'm a bad person, and I know this.  But I'm honest.)

Anyway, today I did it.  I went through every one of those boxes and got rid of everything, shredding the papers and keeping only the few personal pictures and things I found.  It didn't make me sad or angry.  In fact, I could look at everything and think back fondly of the great people I worked with and all the laughs I had as well as appreciating what having that job afforded me along the way.

I'm grateful to have worked there and I'm even more grateful that I no longer do.  I get to wake up each day and decide what I feel like doing.  I can work on my shops, play with my dog, make breakfast for my husband, run errands and stop at any flea market or sale I please.  I still find myself laying in bed at night thinking about work, but it's excitement in planning my next steps, rather than tossing and turning in utter dread at what fresh hell the next day would hold.

I have a very good friend who is still in the business and he asks me "how much would it take for you to come back?"  That is a very good question, and if I ever come up with a value that is equal to the feeling I get every morning when I get out of bed smiling and excited to face my day, I'll let him know.

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